There is a lot of evil in our world. Since the fall of man, it has been a constant presence continually reminding us of the separation we have forced between us and God. We can see this depravity in everything from terrorist attacks to rude quips delivered by annoyed friends. With all of the obvious evils we are surrounded by, I think we often miss the more subtle evils that creep in unlooked for and unnoticed. Jeremiah 5 describes these dangers and their consequences:
“For wicked men are found among my people;
they lurk like fowlers lying in wait.
They set a trap;
they catch men.
Like a cage full of birds,
their houses are full of deceit;
therefore they have become great and rich;
they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no bounds in deeds of evil;
they judge not with justice
the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.
Shall I not punish them for these things?
declares the LORD,
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this?'” – Jeremiah 5:26-29
At the beginning of this passage, God mentions the more obvious sins, the wicked men who trap men and work in deceit. However, the ending points out those who appear to be seemingly normal people. Those who “judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless” or “do not defend the rights of the needy”, i.e. those who don’t help the orphans and defend the poor. It seems that God is just as harsh with those who don’t do good as those who actively pursue outward evils.
Unfortunately, many people who would consider themselves good people or even Christians can be found ignoring their duty to help others. Time and time again in scripture we see God command us to help others, yet we often see this as more of a suggestion than one of our primary goals on this planet. This little passage of scripture is an important reminder of the weight God places on helping His children. Someone who simply neglected to help others provokes His anger just as much as murder or swindling.
This reminds me of an old anecdote attributed to Albert Einstein (although my research has found that its origin is unknown and someone simply tossed his name onto it). To make a long story short, the young “Einstein” asks his skeptical professor some variation of this series of questions:
“Does cold exist? In fact, it does not exist. Cold is simply the term we use to define the absence of heat.
“Does darkness exist? It, too, does not exist. Darkness is the word we have created to describe the absence of light. We can measure light, study its waves and its various colors, but we cannot measure darkness by anything other than how much light is or isn’t present.
“Now tell me, does evil exist? Evil does not exist, sir, at least not unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. Evil is not like light or heat, which exist in and of themselves. Just as cold is dependent upon the existence of heat and darkness is dependent upon the existence of light, so evil is dependent upon the existence of good.”
Now to bring the two together. Our typical idea of evil is a list of terrible acts and thoughts, all with obvious penalties and repercussions. We skip right past the more mundane acts of neglect or laziness in favor of the more definite sins. These little shadows, though, are just as much an absence of light as the deep darkness we often think of.
Think about it this way: Would you automatically consider a man who has never murdered someone a good man? Probably not. Why? He’s never committed such a horrible sin as murder! However, that’s usually considered a bare minimum for being a decent human. There’s a big difference between not being a terrible person and actually being good by human standards. A decent human has never committed murder, but a good person (again, by human standards) has actually served his fellow man and sacrificed his comfort for the wellbeing of others.
Our goal shouldn’t be to avoid murdering people and we’ll get into heaven. No, we shouldn’t be content with the bare minimum. We were redeemed! We’ve been set free! Why should we not spend our time doing what our Savior has commanded rather than settling for the lowest standard?
Before I close, I would like to note that I had a purpose for mentioning that I was discussing good by human standards. God’s standard is perfection. We can never reach it without help, so calling any human good by that standard is pointless. Thankfully, our God loved us enough to send a sacrifice in our place to sanctify us and make us perfect in His eyes once again. This also means that even if we have done things that would cause the world to consider us terrible people, God looks at us and only sees Christ’s blood. I think that it’s a pretty good thing He didn’t just settle for the bare minimum of not destroying us, don’t you?
Don’t settle for simply not doing evil. Glorify your great Father by spending your time doing good as well.